I don’t like to see things go to waste.

When I got my new computer, I decided my previous computer would be an upgrade for the computer before that (which was still in use), and that computer would be an upgrade for the computer before that (which was still in use until recently, when its hard drive died).

My computers
1992 486/66 (originally 33) 360 MB (originally 120) 16 MB Orchid Fahrenheight 1280 VLB
1995 Pentium/200 (originally 133) 2 GB (originally 1) 64 MB (originally 32) Matrox Millenium II (originally Millenium I)
2001 Athlon XP 1600 60 GB 256 MB NVIDIA GeForce 2 Ti
2005 Athlon 64 3500 160 GB 512 MB ATI Radeon X800 PRO

The 486 was my Linux server; the Pentium was a secondary web browsing computer for the kids; the Athlon XP was my main desktop gaming machine. Now my Athlon 64 is my main desktop gaming machine, the Athlon XP will be a gaming machine for the kids, and the Pentium will be my Linux server. I was going to keep the 486 for my Linux server, but ...

... the hard drive in the 486 is dead. I was expecting to have to reinstall Linux, but installing any modern Linux is a major pain on a 130 MB drive. I have a larger drive but it’t SCSI and I don’t have a SCSI controller anymore in the 486. Fortunately a friend of mine gave me his 1.5 GB IDE hard drive with Mandrake already installed. I tried it in the 486, but that hard drive needs LBA geometry support, which the 486 BIOS doesn’t support. So I tried it in the Pentium, and it works great.

I noticed however that the Pentium was quiet. Too quiet. I discovered that the power supply fan wasn’t running. It’s so clogged with dust that it won’t spin (even when I try to spin it by hand). I give up for the day.

The next day it occurs to me—can I use the 486 power supply (which is relatively new; I had it replaced a few years ago) in the Pentium? I looked at the voltage/amp listing on the cover and it seems to match (both are around 230W). I think I can do this.

I’ve never removed a power supply before. I looked at the cables coming out of it. There are two that go to the motherboard, a whole lot that go to peripherals, and one that goes to the power supply switch. Both cases have a power supply switch; my newer computers in contrast have the switch built into the power supply. It looks like there are four wires (brown, white, black, blue) that connect to the switch, plus a green ground wire. In the Pentium, the ground isn’t connected to anything; in the 486, it’s connected to a metal part of the case.

To remove the power supply in the Pentium involves a lot of pain. The cable from the power supply to the front of the case (where the switch is) goes through a tiny corner between the motherboard and the front panel. To get to it, I need to remove the front panel. Three of the screws are easily accessible; the fourth is not. So I remove three screws, but the panel won’t move. It turns out it is blocked by the two CD-ROM drives. So I remove both CD-ROM drives, and pull the panel back a little bit, but I can’t reach the four switch connectors. I have to remove the motherboard too. What a pain.

Old computers

Once I disconnect everything, I look at the 486 power supply and see that it does not have the same kind of connectors; it has its own mechanical switch, mounted in the back of the case where a parallel port might go. So I can’t connect it to the front switch. I put the case panel back on, but the motherboard is a pain to screw back in.

Frankenstein computer transplant

Later today, I will put the 486 power supply into the Pentium and make sure everything still works. I will need to put the switch on the back of the computer, mounted to the parallel port opening in the case. It’s ugly, but it should work.

I will soon have the Pentium with a hard drive from a friend, some memory from one machine, some memory from another machine, a power supply I bought a few years ago for the 486, a network card I bought for one computer but then used in another computer, no CD-ROM drives (I took out the CD-ROM drive from that machine and also a CD-ROM drive that I had gotten from someone else), a video card that used to be in another machine, a case from a really old 386 machine, and no Soundblaster Pro. The CPU itself I got from a friend many years ago. And there’s lots of dust everywhere.

The simplest thing to do would have bought a Mac Mini for my server, and then throw away or donate the two old computers. But this was more challenging, and I learned something. (Other than that I should just get a Mac Mini.)

Since I got parts from seven different places, I decided to call this machine Frankenstein.


Anonymous wrote at Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 5:17:00 AM PST

Dear Amit,

I just went through your home page and your blogs and i really liked them.

And I also got to know that u r the student of Stanford University. I am also a student of Computer with bachelors degree and would like to have ur closeness to help myself to further my studies on this subject.

Hoping for your kind cooperation.


email: mishra_udayan@hotmail.com

Amit wrote at Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 2:06:00 PM PDT

This machine served me for a few years, and then I got a Mac Mini to act as my file/web server.